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.