Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why We Gather...

And let us not neglect our meeting together… Hebrews 10:25

  • to corporately experience and ponder the beauty of God - "Religious people find God useful. Christians find God beautiful."
  • to remember that there is a KING and it's not me.
  • to remember grace is free, but not cheap.
  • to remember that the worship service doesn't begin at church on Sunday morning; it's everyday + everywhere.
  • to experience the counter-cultural truth – “it is better to give that to receive” (Acts 20:35).
  • to “encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13).
  • to remember that our lives do not center around us.
  • to remember that HE is superior to the many fruitless joys + fleeting thrills found in this broken world.
  • because when two or three gather is HIS name, HE is there is a special way.
  • to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).
  • to worship the ONE who will one day set all things right (Acts 17:30-31).
  • to be reminded of what our KING wants - valiant devotion + courageous love.
  • to center our lives on the transformational Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.
  • to equip the saints for works of service and to "live sent" (Eph. 4:11).
  • to see and experience God’s truth the way it was intended to be – i.e., in community.
  • to be reminded that nothing is ever truly ours unless it is given away (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
  • to remember that life is a journey and to honestly examine our current course of life.  Are we headed in the right direction?
  • to remember that we are God’s blood-bought and redeemed people, created for “good works” (Eph. 2:10).
  • to be reminded that we weren't made for this world (the way it is); we were made for another world (how the world was and one day will be).
  • to center our lives on what's most important.
  • to remember and experience the fact that we are eternally accepted and loved.
  • to be reminded that repentance, not perfectionism, is the sure sign of the Gospel taking root in one's life.
  • to be encouraged to let go of our failures and fears and to grab hold of the forgiveness and healing found in GOSPEL.

Join us at the Sunday's Gathering.
"All are welcome."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Treasuring the Gospel through the Advent Wreath

Each December, Christians of all kinds celebrate the ADVENT (coming/appearing) of the Messiah. 

One of the ways many churches mark the time of this season is with an Advent wreath. The evergreens help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus Christ. The wreath consists of five candles: four candles around the wreath and one white "Christ" candle in the center. One candle is lit each week with a corresponding Scripture reading until all are lit. The growing light and development of the story progressively reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. Each candle is typically assigned a specific theme. 

Here's how we, Grace Church, observe the Advent wreath: 
1st CANDLE - THE CANDLE OF HOPE: We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us. This candle reminds us that our hope comes from God. "And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.' May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:12-13)  
2nd CANDLE - THE CANDLE OF PEACE:God kept his promise of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem and bring peace and well-being to the world.  This candle, as well as Zachariah's song in Luke chapter 1, reminds of us this: "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." 
3rd CANDLE - THE CANDLE OF JOYThis candle, the only pink one, points to the joy given in the GOSPEL. The angels sang a message of JOY! "...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." (Luke 2:7-15)  
4th CANDLE - THE CANDLE OF LOVE: The angles announced the good news of a Savior.  God sent his only Son to earth to save us, because he loves us! This candle reminds us of this life-altering truth - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)  
5th CANDLE - CHRIST CANDLE:The white candle, the last candle, lit on Christmas Eve, reminds us that Jesus is the spotless lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death, his death was for our birth! "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)
The Advent Wreath is a wonderful way to ponder the true meaning of Christmas. During the hustle and bustle of the season, may we treasure the coming of Christ and his Gospel for the world. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Deep Down Faith 2014 begins in January

We are very excited about our Theology program starting in January. This "course" will be based on Cornelius Plantinga's book, 'Deep Down Faith'. This devotional-styled text is a great way to spend 24 weeks engaging with the reformed faith. The class will meet after each unit, 6 times in 2014. Please join us for this great time of challenge and learning sound theology which leads to sound (right) living. The link below is to the Facebook page where all the info is available including a link to where the book can be purchased.

Deep Down Faith

Friday, November 29, 2013

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Living in Grace against the Missio Malum

The Story of Scripture is clear on one thing, Evil has a mission. This mission is seen in the destruction caused in the Edenic scene, where a beautiful and happy humanity become broken exiles, hiding from God out of shame. It is seen again in vivid color as the whole of the New Testament letters are dedicated to seeing that the community of faith see through the bickering and differences between them and to the reality of the new humanity they have together become. Evil has a mission, to see humanity ravaged by disunity and hate. For a humanity that is broken in this way ceases to be humanity. If Evil can take humanity away from the world then God too will vanish. With no humanity to bear his image and reflect his beauty Evil will have won accomplishing its mission.

God has a mission as well: To see Evil vanquished. The Good News of the "Gospel" is that in Jesus God's mission has come to the world and has a great victory. This. Missio Dei is the whole point of the Biblical narrative, its main theme. Israel was created out of Abraham in order to see to the riddance of Evil from creation. A people through whom God would call all the other nations back to himself. Indeed Paul understands this eschatological intention as the foundation for God’s covenant with Abraham, “in you all the nations are blessed” (See Romans 8 for the cosmic end of a restored earth followed by Romans 9-11 where Paul makes the argument that through faith in Jesus people become members of the “Israel of God” and this people, “all of Israel will be saved”). Jesus, while dying on a cross cries out for God to forgive his killers because he understands what is at stake: Evil is the true culprit responsible for his death and his death will be ironically the death blow to death itself, Evil has been dealt with. The death of Jesus and his resurrection bring God’s mission to its climax and to its accomplishment. Evil is no longer hidden and reigning without challenge, in fact it is only a matter of time before it’s completely gone from this world. Since the cross, God has given his spirit, his “glory” to his people as his new Temples. These people have the authority and power to resist evil and be victorious over it. The most important way this is done is through the living out of the good news announcement. Proclaiming that Jesus is now indeed King must be accompanied by a self-sacrifice of relentless forgiveness. To forgive is to bring the Kingdom of God into our lives and confrontations. Like the demons and sickness that encountered Jesus when he began his ministry, so Evil will not be able to stand, Mark 1. Forgiveness is essential to obeying the Gospel and not being a false or counterfeit follower, Matthew 6:14.

Do not allow Evil to accomplish its mission in your life. Be reconciled to your enemies, forgive all who have wronged you. When we fail in this we deem ourselves of more importance than God's mission and to choose the wrong Kingdom in which to live. There is no such thing as neutrality. One will either promote the Missio Malum (Evil) or the Missio Dei. This holiday season seek that family member, co-worker, Church member or neighbor who you do not like, who does not like you and forgive them. Speak blessing to them, apologize and tell them that you want to be reconciled and ask if they would work together with you to see this done. Obey the Gospel. Otherwise, all of our religious work, bible study, church attendance, and community group involvement is in vain. Evil doesn't care if we are religious, it wants us to have broken relationships, pretending to be a disciple of Jesus while we are violating the very essence of his Gospel. Do we want to be true disciples, to really see the glory of God in our lives? Then we must repent and with all of our energy and resources...with all our life can pour out, be reconciled to our fellow image bearers. There is nothing more important in the life of the disciple of Jesus. Be like the Rabbi.

Remember the Reason for the Season - Church Planting!

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” ~ Jesus, Acts 20:35

Merry Christmas to all the friends, supporters, and encouragers of Grace Churchof Dunedin!  

Christmas is always a fun (and busy!) time of the year - family, friends, Christmas songs, claymation, Rudolph, stockings, eggnog, shopping, Adam Sandler's Hanukkah songs, mistletoe, Christmas lights, sparkling grape juice, etc.  In addition to all those jolly activities, the times of corporate worship during Advent Season are always some of my most favorite.

A lot of Christians talk about keeping Christ in Christmas and come up with great ways to remember the advent of our Lord; but have you ever considered how Christmas and church planting go together?  Yes, as Christians, Christmas is a special/sacred time to remember the gift of Christ; but it should also be a time of remembering why he came!  What is “the reason for the season?”

According to Isaiah 9:6-7, Christ came in order to bring the Kingdom of God to earth; and with that Kingdom comes peace, redemption, and life as it should be.  Verse 7 concludes with stamp of God's zealous promise to do it.  In the New Testament we learn that God's plan to "do it" is the through the expansion of the church, i.e., church planting (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8; 15:41; 16:5; Matthew 16:18)!

So, this Christmas season, may I encourage you to consider giving the gift of church planting.  There is still much Kingdom work to do; and the Gospel transforms lives and communities primarily through local churches.  As one leading missiologist, C. Peter Wagner writes, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven."

Of course, you can GIVE to Grace Church!  We have a lot of preparations still to complete that can only get done through additional income.  Every dollar helps, no gift is too small to make a difference in building the Kingdom!  You can mail your donation to:
Grace Church
PO Box # 421
1350 County Road 1
Dunedin, FL 34698

You can also donate online HERE.

But, if not Grace Church, consider giving the gift of church planting elsewhere.  Or simply give your gift to Grace Church designating it as "church planting".  We are often giving to other church plants, locally and abroad, and this donation would quickly be put to great use!
 On behalf of the other Grace Church elders, James Gleichowski and Steve Lee, we wish you and your family a most blessed Christmas! We also hope and pray that your partnership in building the Kingdom through church planting will mirror the redemptive love of our Savior who went to where the people were, cared for them with compassion, and spoke to them the good news of the kingdom.

Please Pray:
We are still dreaming big and praying big, believing God can and will use Grace Church in mighty ways.  Prayer is the number one means to any movement of God's Spirit. PLEASE be praying for Grace Church, our leaders, and our mission.

Thank you for praying for Grace Church!

If you have any questions about Grace Church or how you can help us with this church plant project, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Advent - Messianic Anticipations

Advent is part of the liturgical church calendar.  The purpose of having church seasons, such as Advent and Lent, are to create meditative rhythms in our life together.  These corporate and communal rhythms are all based upon the one true and sure foundation - Jesus the Messiah!

The word "Advent" comes from the Latin, adventus and it's the translation of the Greek word parousia, which means "appearing" or "coming".

This is the season we remember that our King has come!  And, as surely as he came the first time, he is coming again, this time to renew all things by consumated his kingdom (Revelation 22:20)!

That's Gospel, good news, to our soul!

May this Advent season be a special time of reflection + envisioning as we consider together, at our Sunday morning Gatherings throughout December, the teaching of the Old Testament Prophets, like Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea, and what they foretold the coming Messiah would do.

All are welcome.

The Practice of Gratitude

We have so much to be grateful for. 

Everywhere we look, in every conversation, in every dollar earned, spent and given, in every moment lived, and in every emotion experienced, we have much to be grateful for. Oh sure, there are always things not going well in everyone’s life; but in spite of and even in the midst of those inevitable troubles and pains, God has been and is very good to us.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Take a look around.  Try to count all the “good” things in your life. You’ll lose count!

Thanksgiving reminds us of the importance of the practice of gratitude and appreciation, something we neglect far too often.  Sometimes, the source of our angst and underpinning frustration (with just about everything!) is due to our lack of perspective. We have much to be grateful for.  May we learn to see, acknowledge, and be grateful.

We have so much to be grateful for!

May we give God the praise of thanksgiving that he is so worthy of receiving.  May we look at our loved ones, acknowledge the blessing they are to us, and be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Listen to Pastor Heath share on The Practice of Gratitude.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bible Manipulation

The latest up at Inside Shalom. The bible isn't a tool to be "used". Its a story to be lived, a book to be eaten.

Bible Manipulating

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Be Convinced: Abraham, Paul and Us

As we look into the life of Abraham it is easy to think his life is something totally different than our own and that his story is separate from ours. He did live a long time ago in a world very very different from our own. Even with this huge historical gap, this man is important for our world. Abraham is known as the Father of faith, and not just Christian faith but Jewish and Muslim as well. In fact, as Pastor Heath pointed out a couple of weeks ago, all the millions and millions of people belonging to any of these major religions claim Abraham as their Patriarch. Abraham does mean, "Big daddy" and he lives up to this name!

Abraham is important not only because he is a major religious figure, but also because he believed God in some pretty enormous circumstances. We can connect with father Abraham in this, for we too have been called to believe God. There are many characters in the Bible since Abraham who have followed in his footsteps of faith. Joseph believed God would vindicate him and deliver his people even as he rotted away in an Egyptian dungeon. Daniel and his friends showed faith in standing against the multiple attempts of their Babylonian captors to deter them from worshiping the God of their fathers. This resulting in exposure to a lion's den and a fiery furnace. Moses had faith to obey God's voice from a burning bush to return to the kingdom he had fled for his life from just years before. This trend of faith is explained by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament as being the true children of Abraham- Galatians 3:7. Jesus believed that the true children of Abraham were not the ethnic Jews, but those who had the same faith as Abraham, Jew or Gentile -John 8:31-47. Abraham is indeed someone we can and should connect with.

Abraham was not perfect. As Pastor Heath demonstrated from Genesis 12 in this series, he, at this time still named Abram, was not always faithful. He was fearful of Egyptian power and lied to Pharaoh in order to preserve his own life. Abram was given a promise from God but that was forgotten when he was faced with danger. God still delivers Abraham. The next time we see Abraham, he is a different man. When Lot and him become too big to share land they split ways. Abraham does not express a fearful or anxious attitude in dealing with Lot. In fact his desire is solely for that of "peace between you and I" Gen.13:8. When Lot is a little later captured, Abraham shows no fear in leading his forces out to deliver him. Sometime between the chapters, Abraham comes to truly believe God, he has become convinced.

This same faith is seen in Paul. Romans has been called a "towering mountain" by some who have dared to scale its heights. This is not only because of the sheer immensity of its theology, but also because of the enormity of its beauty and consoling truths. Romans is for everyone, do not fear the mountain! With that said, another thing that makes it such a mountainous work is the whole of history that it surveys. Paul retells the story of Israel from the standpoint of Jesus as Messiah and his story stretches from Creation to the restoration of the Cosmos. Romans is a cosmic work and it is a very personal and faith building work. What is interesting, is in chapter 8, at the highest point on the mountain, the cosmic, Paul reveals something of his own faith and its plain to see why he has spent so much time connecting his story to Abraham. Paul stands on the peak of history, seemingly in the stars and even the throne room of the New Jerusalem and declares that suffering has come and will continue to come upon the cosmic people of God. Rather than being discouraged and without faith, Paul says that he is "convinced". There is no more question in Paul, as there was no more doubt in Abraham. God will restore this world and his humanity. He will put all that is wrong back to rights, this is his promise and his glory. And right before Paul begins the heart of Romans (chs. 9-11) dealing with the question of God's faithfulness despite Israel's faithlessness, he stands as a man convinced that nothing in all of evil, from the most powerful to even death itself, is able to thwart the Mission of God. He is convinced that nothing will ever separate the people of God from his love poured out upon them through the Messiah (see Romans 8:37-39).

I want to be convinced as well. This has been my prayer lately. Our world is very different from Abraham's and from that of Paul's. Our faith cannot be. Like them, we live in a world that is broken. Paul is not only describing evils in his day but in ours as well. Death, disease, oppressive powers, broken relationships and horrible atrocities are everywhere in our world as well as the ancient one. Technology has not been able to thwart these but has been used at times to increase them. Western philosophy despite its claims and promises has failed to correctly diagnose, much less heal us. We as a people need to be convinced that God has achieved victory in Jesus. We must know that our faith is not in vain. We must have faith of this even, or especially in, those times when we are called to stand in evil's way, when all is dark and seems hopeless.

So I am reforming my prayer. I pray we as a people demonstrate and find peace and joy in the same faith as that of Abraham. I pray that like Paul we can look out on a broken world being devoured by evil and see our Messiah taking the full weight of this terror on himself. And being filled with the same spirit that raised him from the clutches of death, declare that we are convinced. Nothing will stop the love of God from conquering and repairing all who are broken. God is faithful, he will do it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Baptism Part 2: Death of the Messiah, Resurrection for Humanity

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. -Romans 6:3-5
Baptism is an act whereby we affirm our faith in God's promise to deliver and liberate his people and his world as he delivered Israel from Egypt. Baptism is our public initiation into the community and movement established by Jesus. We last looked at how baptism is connected to the Exodus narrative and is in itself an Exodus act, Baptism Part 1: New Exodus. Jesus is a better Moses who has rescued us from sin and has led us into the new world of God's Shalom.

Baptism is a beautiful and colorful sacrament. It is much more than a string connecting worlds, times or events. It is a web weaving in and out of history and throughout the biblical story connecting and illustrating the plan and intention of God for his world and for his humanity. Paul is getting at this very thing when in his letter to the Romans he comes to the topic of baptism.

Paul introduces and applies a very important theological truth that all who call themselves followers of Jesus must come to terms with: What is true of the Messiah, is also true of his people. The Gospel writers express this toward the end of their accounts. John in his Gospel remembers these words of Jesus:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. -John 14:12
In his prayer in John 17, Jesus expresses his desire to have all his people with him where he is because he is loved by the Father, "before the creation of the world" (vs.24). Paul might have this in mind in his letter to the Ephesians when he tells them that they have been loved and chosen by God before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)...what is true of Jesus is true of us.

So here in Romans 6, as Paul is re-telling Israel's story with the Messiah twist he comes to the Exodus. We have discussed how baptism and exodus correlate in part 1, Paul wants us to see baptism in an even greater light. The text quoted above postulates that being baptized in water is more than that, it is being baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection. Here Paul takes the truth, 'what is true of Jesus is true of his people', and exposes it's very foundation- we have become united with him (6:5). In baptism we follow Jesus into his death, an event that brought an end to death's reign. In baptism we obey the command of Jesus to take up our cross and follow him to Golgotha (Mark 8:34).

Paul continues his reasoning, if we become united to his death, we will also have his resurrection. Joining Jesus' movement and community is to join in his suffering. All who follow Jesus are called to their own wilderness experiences, but what is true of Jesus is true of us. Jesus died and was buried, his people die and enter the ground with him.  Jesus did not stay in the grave. We resurrect with him! Death has no victory over us, sin is no longer our master! (Romans 6:9-12) So in Baptism we not only re-enact the Exodus from Egypt, we re-enact humanity's Exodus from sin and death. In Baptism we demonstrate that we have been united to Jesus in such a way that we have died to sin as he did and we resurrect victorious over death as he did. By baptism we affirm faith in Jesus, that he was victorious and that we will indeed always be with him where he is. So by entering into the water we in a very real sense enter a new world and a new hope. When we raise out of the water we do so knowing that our life is new and that resurrection is in our future for our bodies as it is present in our spirits.

Have you yet to be baptized? Hurry to the water! Come to unity with Jesus in his death, resurrection and eternal life.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When the Rabbi Says "Come"

In the days of Jesus, what did the term disciple (talmid) mean to them; and what can we learn from that today? Ray Vander Laan, a scholar of the Hebrew texts and customs, Christian teacher, and Ancient Middle East expert, helps us understand.

Learn more from Ray Vander Laan at FollowThe Rabbi.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Discipleship Simplified From Down Under

The wonderful publishers from Down Under, Matthias Media, has provided an excellent resource that aims at equipping believers in having one-to-one bible reading times with their friends who are non-believers, young believers, or, like them, growing believers. 

The name of the short book is One to One Bible Reading and it's by David Helm, the pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. Part of Helm’s premise is inspired by a paragraph from The Trellis and the Vine, another resource from Matthias Media:
Imagine if all Christians, as a normal part of their discipleship, were caught up in a web of regular Bible reading—not only digging into the Word privately, but reading it with their children before bed, with their spouse over breakfast, with a non-Christian colleague at work once a week over lunch, with a new Christian for follow-up once a fortnight for mutual encouragement, and with a mature Christian friend once a month for mutual encouragement. 

Prior to referring back to this quote from Marshall and Payne, Helm says in One-to-One, “What is this way? What is this activity that is so simple and so universal that it meets the discipleship needs of these three very different people? We call it reading the Bible one-to-one.”

By design the one-to-one concept is meant to remove all the programmatic pressure that today’s American church-goer is inclined to burden himself or herself to in the discipleship process. Rather than approaching discipleship with the expectation of having a directed program, professional curriculum, and polished facilitation, Helm frees Christ-followers from feeling like they have to be a bible study specialist and gives us confidence that meeting to read scripture together and discuss will be a catalyst for gospel, spiritual, and community growth.

Helm writes:
Any committed Christian is capable of initiating a good conversation on a biblical text. In reality, your fears in this area of personal work betray two Screwtape-like lies that every Christian must resist. First, that gospel growth depends on us and on our abilities. This is simply not the case. Our proficiency in the Bible is not the final arbiter in seeing spiritual growth occur. The Holy Spirit can and does use timid people just like us. The second lie we fight against is disbelief—disbelief in the potency of God’s word. We need to be reminded that God does his work in his way, and it is his word that accomplishes whatever he desires in the world.

I love this approach!  And, if you've been around Grace Church for a while, you know this approach  resonates what we've been pushing since our beginning. The concept of One-to-One centers Christian fellowship around scripture. By design this fellowship leans heavily on the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of two people developing a mutual friendship around the Word of God.

Go figure…a discipleship method that depends on the Spirit and Scripture! And here's the best part, any and every Christian can do it!

This concept is not novel. This concept is not trendy. This concept is not vintage. It is simply rooted in historic biblical Christianity. Order it today or pick up a copy this Sunday at Grace Church!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Forgiveness: It's Not About You

Inside Shalom blogs on Forgiveness. Many see forgiveness as something that's good for the psyche. This is true but Jesus teaches and demonstrates magnificent and grand reasons to live a life of forgiveness that are bigger than us. Its how we walk in true discipleship and how evil itself is eradicated. Grace and Peace.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baptism Part 1: New Exodus

Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.".
Mark 1:10&11 
Baptism has been an important tradition in Christianity since the very beginning. There are many ways to practice this tradition, sprinkling, immersion, in a church or at the beach, some baptize infants whereas others believe baptism to be for consenting adults. Though there exist a wide variety of opinions, baptism is a very treasured sacrament by all who believe in Jesus as Messiah. Lets briefly look at baptism as it connects with Exodus.

Baptism is connected to the Exodus story of Israel. When Israel found themselves enslaved to a cruel Pharaoh in Egypt they cried out to the God of their ancestor, Abraham and He heard them. Sending Moses as his representative he ordered that Israel be set free. Pharaoh refused resulting in a showdown between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt. The God of Israel wins this bout and delivers Israel from Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea and leading the Israelites safely through to the other side and then having the waters swallow up the Egyptian army. This deliverance is the climax of the Exodus story, God delivered Israel through the water to safety, Exodus 1-15.

When John the Baptist begins his movement it has this story of Exodus as his platform. He sets up his prophetic ministry in the wilderness, dressing and eating like a wandering prophet of old, preaching a similar message of repentance and renewal. He offers a baptism in the Jordan, Mark 1:1-8. His baptism is an opportunity for people to reenact the story of their faith by coming through the waters like their forefathers and thereby renewing their faith and covenantal commitment to the same God who delivered from Egypt. They are saying through John's baptism that they believe the God of Abraham is not done with his people and that he is bringing salvation as he has promised.

Jesus begins his movement with this baptism by John in the Jordan, Mark 1:9-13. This is important to keep in mind as we read and study the Gospels. Jesus has a message, "The Kingdom of God is here", Mark 1:15. His message of Kingdom is accompanied by actions, all of which in some way or another point back to Exodus. His baptism is the beginning of a movement of deliverance and restoration, his is a new Exodus movement.

Jesus goes through the water by way of his baptism and like Israel before him goes from the sea to the wilderness. Israel was in the wilderness for forty years, Jesus for forty days, Matthew 4:1-11. God feeds Israel manna from heaven, Exodus 16. Jesus feeds the four and five thousand the fish and the loaves, John 6. God parts the Red Sea, Jesus walks upon the stormy sea, John 6. Israel builds a temple in which God dwells, Jesus condemns the Temple and claims to be the new Temple, John 2. Looking back at Jesus' wilderness experience after his baptism by John, he is faithful and defeats the Satan, whereas Israel is in the wilderness because of their disobedience and unbelief, Numbers 14. Where Israel failed, Jesus has succeeded. His Exodus is a better one. As the author of Hebrews says, he is a better Moses, Hebrews 3:3.

So the New Testament conveys Baptism as an action that connects the believer with the Exodus, with the entire story and people of God. Through baptism we are taking part in the grand and cosmic mission of God to "put the world back to rights" (N.T. Wright). In baptism we are joining the Jesus movement and we are casting off our old identities for a new one, the true humanity, the people of Exodus. We, in baptism, affirm that God is faithful and has become King of the nations through the victory of Jesus. A great place to see this is in Romans 6, where Paul is retelling the Exodus story in light of the Jesus movement. In Jesus both Jew and Gentile have experienced Exodus, being delivered from the Law and from idolatry. The result is a new humanity made of people placed into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul says that in baptism we have "been united with him (Jesus)" Romans 6:5. Baptism is a very real and powerful action of imputation (being placed into Jesus, meaning we have his status as sons and daughters) and of enlistment, baptism is the believer joining the Jesus movement and therefore the Missio Dei ('mission of God' that of restoring creation from evil).

If you haven't been baptized and you believe that Jesus is the true Messiah who died and rose from the grave in victory over evil and death, I encourage you to do so! In baptism you join hearts and faith with all who have come before you, all you stand with you and all who will come after you. In baptism you will join the new Exodus movement of God and take part in his mission to deliver and restore. If you have been baptized, I encourage you to always remember your baptism as that moment you passed through the waters to the promised inheritance of God. Think back with joy knowing that what is true of Jesus is also true of his people, in you God is "well pleased".

We have briefly looked at how baptism connects us to Exodus and places us in a role in the New Exodus accomplished in Jesus. Next blog we will look at how baptism connects us to Resurrection and the restoration of all things. Grace and Peace.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Financial Peace University

FPU w/Dave Ramsey – September 10th

We all need a plan for our money. Financial Peace University (FPU) is that plan! It teaches God's ways of handling money. Through video teaching, class discussions and interactive small group activities, FPU presents biblical, practical steps to get from where you are to where you've dreamed you could be. This plan will show you how to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more!

This group will be meeting on Tuesday nights, for 9 weeks, beginning on September 10th and all of the meetings will be held at the Dunedin House of Beer.

The cost is $93 for all the materials.  (Also, it's free for people who have already gone through FPU and want a refresher.  If these people want the updated material it's $49.) 

Lastly, there is no childcare provided for this. 

Contact Jeremy Perrin for more details or just see our FPU page HERE.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Led by the Spirit: Galatians 5

I found Pastor Heaths sermon this morning to be very encouraging. Galatians 5 is not an easy text to unpack because there is so much there. He did a great job in taking us through Paul's argument and bringing the text into our day and lives. May we be led by the Holy Spirit as Gods renewed and redeemed people.

There is another element to this text as well that I would like to bring out which I believe will further encourage and challenge us.

The Shekinah of God led the Israelites through the wilderness in form of cloud and fire (illustrated here). Remember from our series on 'Meeting Jesus at the Feast' that the Shekinah means that God is with us. God actually and really settled, dwelt and inhabited with his people in the tabernacle. Paul is using Exodus language, wanting the reader to remember the stories of how God revealed himself to his people while in the wilderness. Jesus has sent the Spirit to inhabit, settle and dwell with his people. As the cloud and fire demonstrated the active and true presence of God then so now the fruit of the Spirit demonstrates the true and active presence of God in his people today.

This is wonderful news! As Heath made the point to teach us this morning, the fruit of the Spirit is not a list of rules you have to follow to "get in", it is how God reveals to the world and to his people that he is dwelling in and with us. Isaiah hopes for a King who will come and his name will be Emmanuel, which means, "God with us" (see Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Jesus has come and he has brought in himself the God of Israel. The one true God of Israel has become King of all the nations through the work and victory of Jesus. In Jesus, God has again dwelt and settled in and with his people. 

This is who the Holy Spirit is: God empowering, indwelling and leading the people of God. To be led by the Spirit is to be filled and freed by the very Shekinah glory and presence of God. Galatians 5 reminds us that we are the new temple where God has chosen to live. This is also what humans were created to be. Let us who are called and justified by the God of grace, worship him as we live free reflecting him who is beautiful and sovereign. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Eager Wait: Running a Good Race

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. Galatians 5:5
What does Paul mean when he says that “we eagerly await"? Many have taken this to mean that they are to wait passively for the second coming or some sort of end times event like a rapture or rise of the Anti-Christ. This thinking has led to a theory that Christians are to have nothing to do with culture i.e. arts, politics or social work, but rather we are to await our “real” home, Heaven. Others have thought that waiting for the hope of righteousness is living the “best we can while we are here”. This usually entails a moral code of some sort, with great emphasis given to personal morality and righteousness. The problem with this approach has been discussed and explained by Pastor Heath as we have looked at Galatians on Sunday mornings and have discussed these sermons in our community groups.

So what does it mean when the text says that we eagerly wait? Most commentators I have looked at have explained it as a waiting that is active. In fact Paul seems to convey the same idea in the next verse, “For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 5:6. Another version says it this way, “…but faith working through love.” (NASB). The eager wait of the believer is having our faith work through love. We are saved by grace and kept by grace, this means that we have nothing to do with our being called as God’s people. But there is work going on in this wait, God is at work. Our faith which is a gift from God is expressing itself through love. For Paul, waiting for the hope of righteousness is the action of faith working through love.

The thought continues, “You were running a good race, who cut in on you and hindered you from obeying the truth?”5:7.  This analogy illustrates what waiting really is here in Galatians 5. To eagerly wait is to run a good race.

Every race has a goal, a desired end, a finish line. The race mentioned here has a finish line as well and Paul is passionate in his coaching. He wants to see the Galatians run a good race and finish strong. The finish line, mentioned in verse 5, “the righteousness for which we hope” is the hope of the believer. What awaits the believer at the end of this life? What hope do we have when all seems hopeless and dark? Is death the final experience for us? Are we to suffer forever? Will this world remain evil and broken? Paul is adamant that Jesus was crucified and buried and then he was raised. This is the testimony that serves as the very foundation of the Church. Jesus is resurrected, he is the true Messiah, the King of the nations. He is the one who has made and is making all things new, all things right.

This rightness, or righteousness is the end result of the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit through his people. I believe the righteousness hoped for here is the resurrection of God’s people and the restoration of God’s creation. For what is true of Jesus is true for his people. We eagerly wait for our resurrection, the making right of all things. Our hope is that God will do what he has promised. This is the faith given to Abraham and all who believe. This is a cosmic hope, a cosmic righteousness. It is not about our individual morality or how “holy” we are as measured by a code of conduct. It is all about Jesus and what he has done: He has fulfilled the covenant given to Israel and humanity. He has succeeded where Israel failed. He has purchased a people by suffering and dying as their atonement. He has taken upon himself, in our place, the wrath of God demanded for breaking his Law. He is the means through which God has made the world right and is making the world right. This people he has purchased and redeemed has become the New and True Humanity, finding their identity in what God has done through Jesus and in his mission to restore the world (see Galatians 3:23-4:7).

So we run this race toward the finish line of the eradication of evil and injustice and the redemption of God’s humanity and world. We are eager in our waiting as faith works and expresses itself though our love and compassion for all of God’s image bearers. For we have a hope that is more real and tangible than even our own skin and circumstances. I pray we as a community continue to “eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” 

I look forward to these next talks on Galatians as we look at what it looks like to run a good race, to hope in the righteousness of God.