AMAZED

Going through my prayer cards this morning, I came across a meditation card with Luke 9:43 written on it: “And they were amazed at the greatness of God.”

When was the last time you took a few minutes to reflect on the greatness of God?

As I reflected on this passage, my mind was filled with thoughts about God and His greatness, and I could not help but be filled with thanksgiving.  I also prayed that this would be true of us at Grace Fellowship.

When we stand amazed in His presence – we tend to be grateful people instead of grumblers.  Are you grateful or a grumbler?

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DR. CHARLES LOWERY at GRACE FELLOWSHIP

We’ve had an amazing September at Grace Fellowship, and we’re wrapping up the month by having Dr. Charles Lowery back.  He and Penny have not moved to the East Coast yet so we’re blessed to have him at Grace this Sunday.   Dr. Lowery will preach all three services (8:30am, 10:00am, 11:30am) this Sunday, September 24th, so make sure you INVITE someone to attend with you!

We’ve also enjoyed two baptism celebrations this month; baptizing 19 people on September 3, and 11 more on September 17.  Their stories are Off The Charts!  Can’t wait to share more of them with you.

Your response to our series “I LOVE MY CHURCH” has been great!  If you missed any of the series, I hope you’ll go back and watch it.  Use this link:  www.http://gf.church/media-resources/sermon-podcast/

Our mission at www.http://GF.CHURCH is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and our four-fold strategy is:  INVITE  CONNECT  GROW  GO.

 

 

 

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5 Things We Want You To Know

On Sunday, September 17, I told a modern day parable about camping – a grizzly – rattlesnakes – rats and a stranger.   I hope you’ll go back and listen to the parable and message:  www.gf.church/media-resources/sermon-podcast/

At the end of the parable we talked about 5 things we wanted you to know; 5 reasons we exist as a church – that explain our mission and vision.   Here are the 5 things in a nutshell:

God wants you to know He loves you.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  Romans 5:8 NLT

God wants you to know you can be forgiven.

We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  And we can all be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.  Romans 3:22 NLT

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior].”  Romans 8:1 Amp

God wants you to receive the gift He offers.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23 NLT

God wants you to know that you have eternal life.

“I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God…so that you will know that you have eternal life now.”  1 John 5:11 ICB

God wants you to share this with others.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you…”  Matthew 29:19-20 NLT

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A STEP TO GROW YOUR FAITH

Andy Stanley’s series on the five things that grow your faith is awesome! You can find it at   http://fivethingsgoduses.com      The five things he mentions are:

  • Practical Teaching
  • Providential Relationships
  • Personal Ministry
  • Pivotal Circumstances
  • Private Disciplines

Sunday, September 10, our focus was on one of the Private Disciplines; a consistent diet of Scripture.  For years I’ve used acronyms to help me remember and teach certain truths.  A very simple acronym is GROWTH.

  • Go to God in Prayer
  • Read The Bible
  • Obey What You Read
  • Worship Regularly
  • Tell Others What God Has Done For You
  • Hang With People Who Will Help You Grow

I want to encourage you to make it a regular habit to read a portion of Scripture every day! By the way, the Bible is God’s LOVE LETTER to you; it’s not junk mail.

Our primary passage this past Sunday was  1 Peter 2:1-2 NIrV  which says: “So get rid of every kind of evil, and stop telling lies. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Stop wanting what others have, and don’t speak against one another. Like newborn babies, you should long for the pure milk of God’s word. It will help you grow up as believers.”

I recommend you go to http://www.bible.com where you can find many easy translations of the Bible to read and understand, and a variety of Reading Plans that will guide you in your reading.  (note: it’s always best to use a Reading Plan)    You can also go to http://www.gf.church/media-resources/readingplans/ and find a couple of great reading plans for reading through the Bible.

If you’d like to start today and read the entire New Testament by Easter (April 1, 2018), here are two simple plans.  a) read 2 chapters a day 5 days a week and you’ll finish in March.  b) read 1 chapter a day 6 days a week and 3 chapters a day on the 7th day of the week.

If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend a translation like the New Living Translation (NLT), and START in the Book of John in the New Testament; followed by Matthew, Mark and Luke.   Read a little at a time and ask God to help you understand it.  If you need wisdom, read Proverbs; there are 31 chapters, so read the chapter that corresponds to the date and you’ll always know which Proverb to read.

One thing that will really help you GROW is to journal about what you read and think about a passage!  It’s also a great idea to write down questions you have and ask your Life Group, Ministry Leader or a Pastor about them.

When I read a passage, I usually ask these questions to help me understand and find something specific I need to do.   I don’t look for an answer to all of these; I just ask the questions and look for an answer to one of them.   Sometimes, nothing grabs me and I thank God for my time in the Scripture and move on.

  • Is there an example in this passage I should follow?
  • Is there a new thought about God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit for me to consider?
  • Is there a sin I need to confess?
  • Is there a promise in this passage I can claim?
  • Is there an error I should avoid?
  • Is there a command for me to obey?

Don’t give up even if you feel that you don’t understand.   As I said, when I was a new believer, I didn’t understand a lot of what I read either and there are still passages and thing I don’t understand.  That’s ok; growth is a journey – a process; it takes time and involves all five things Andy talked about in his series.

Added Note:  Here are a few passages you might want to read on your own about God’s Word.  Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:105, James 1:21-22, Psalm 119:9-11, Isaiah 40:8, Luke 11:28, Psalm 18:30, Matthew 7:24, Matthew 24:35, Psalm 33:4, John 8:31-32, John 15:7, Psalm 119:160, Proverbs 30:5, Psalm 19:7, Joshua 1:8.

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Hurricane Relief

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Hurricane Harvey Relief

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40 Years Of Marriage

BJ Janet Exit Wedding

Janet & I just celebrated our 40th anniversary on July 16.  At dinner, we talked to our waiter (who was probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s) and when he found it was our 40th, he had a amazed look on his face and said “I hope my wife and I can make it at least 10 years”.

As I thought about his words and the surprised look on his face,  I tried to think about the things that have helped us get this far.  A couple years ago I posted 10 things that can help your marriage, so this is a re-post of some of those.  This isn’t “pie in the sky” kind of stuff because we’ve had our share of ups and downs, and times when we didn’t feel close at all. But here are a few of the things I thought about that have helped us.

  1. Forgive each other. There are times when we’ve hurt each other and gotten ticked off and said things that we shouldn’t say, but we’ve always come back to the fact the we’re not each other’s enemy and we need to forgive each other just like Christ forgave us. We’ve both made a personal decision to trust and follow Christ, which influences every decision we make.
  1. Take regular breaks from the routine. Marriage can easily become routine and difficult; especially during the child raising years. We determined years ago that we’d strive to have a regular date night away from the kids.   We also decided to try and take a vacation together at least once a year without the kids when possible. Yes, most of our vacations in the child raising stage were family vacations, but we tried to find ways to get away by ourselves. Even if we weren’t able to get away for a week, we at least tried to do something special for a few days every 5 years on, or around, our anniversary. We often had to celebrate “around our anniversary” because many of them were spent at Youth Camps when I was a Student Pastor
  1. Give each other space. It took some time, but we’ve both grown to the point where we’re good giving each other some space; which includes short periods of time alone or away from the family. For me, I get recharged in nature or away from crowds and where there are few demands on me. Janet likes to be with people and do things. We trust each other to spend some time away; for me it may be a spiritual retreat or hunting trip. For her, it usually meant going somewhere to be with her family.
  1. Develop great friendships. We developed great friendships with people who were moving in the same direction as us. Friends who wanted to grow in their relationship with Christ too. That made it easier to talk to our friends and keep each other accountable since we’d built relationships of trust. We also learned the value of consistently being in a small group designed for spiritual growth with friends and people we trusted.
  1. Be on the same page. We decided that we’d always strive to be on the same page when it came to discipline or making decisions that concerned our children. We didn’t air our differences in front of the kids or let them play us against each other, but rather had a unified front in what we decided.
  1. Realize some expectations won’t be met. We had to grow to the point of understanding we are very different (not wrong – just different) and always will be. 40 years into our marriage – we’re still different!  Our responsibility is to try our best to meet each other’s needs and guard our hearts against being selfish. That’s a whole lot easier to write than it is to do. This also means we realize some expectations we had coming into our marriage were unrealistic and we had to grow through releasing these.
  1. Recognize marriage is a journey.   There are ups and downs, hard times and good, times of prosperity and times of want. It’s a journey, an adventure, and we’re in it together for the long haul which means we’ll walk through a variety of things that are good and bad along the way.  In the bad times it’s always unwise to make life-changing decisions; especially decisions that are emotionally charged.
  1. Remember our impact on our family and others. There’s a type of inbuilt accountability for us because we value the example we set for our children and grandchildren, as well as our extended family, friends and others. This doesn’t mean living a life of hypocrisy, but the desire to set a good example means we strive to work through the problems and issues we face and are honest about our struggles. Note: that doesn’t mean airing all our dirty laundry; it just means we’re real people like everyone else and we realize we have a responsibility to those who are watching our example.
  1. Handle Finances Well. We made a decision when we got married to do our best to handle our finances in a way that honored God. We continue to practice tithing to the local church, giving over and above the tithe to build the church, and we continue to support a variety of missions and several children in foreign countries. The only way this has been possible was by building margin into our finances. We learned this the hard way by making a number of mistakes, but over the years we learned to limit debt (we’ll be totally debt free this year!) and be on the same page in how we give. We also learned the blessing of generosity!
  1. A common commitment to Christ. We’re both committed to growing in our relationship with Christ even though we mess up time after time.   Striving to keep Christ as the center and Lord of our lives and home has helped us through tough times when it would have been easier to give up. This commitment includes a consistent commitment to involvement in our church, serving in ministry, staying connected in a small group through our church, and having a regular time alone with God in the Bible and prayer. This is one of the key reasons I believe we’ve been able to work through the difficult times and remain committed to one another.  By the way, learning to work through difficulties and hurts in a local church is part of the journey, but being connected and involved in a local church is crucial to your marriage and family!

PS#1 – Yes, the photo in this post is from several years ago!  Ha!

PS#2 – Some books / cd’s I’d recommend:  His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, Fighting For Your Marriage by Markmum, Stanley & Blumberg, The Book of Romance by Tommy Nelson, Marriage is a Covenant by Robert Morris.

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RAVE – CELEBRATE – ROBUST – LOUD – ELATED

These are words used to describe one of the primary Hebrew words for PRAISE used throughout the Old Testament.   As one writer states: HALLAL is a primary Hebrew root word for praise. Our word “hallelujah” comes from this base word. It means “to be clear, to praise, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish.”

None of these are to be done to call attention to ourselves, but to call attention to the greatness of God and His glory!

Every follower of Christ should spend time in Praise, Adoration, Thanksgiving and Worship. Much of my private time to praise, adore, thank, and worship God is quiet, but there are times when we gather (assemble together as the church) where some of our praise [HALLAL] is to be festive and loud.  In other places in the Psalms we’re encouraged to “sing for joy to the Lord” and “shout joyfully”.  This kind of praise requires participation.

As I was reading Psalm 149 this morning I noticed some principles that were interesting.  By the way, the word “praise” in verse 3 is from “HALLAL”.   See what you find as you reflect on these verses.  How do you think they should impact our response to God when we gather as a congregation / assembly / church?

PSALM 149:1-4 NASB

1Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise His name with dancing;
Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.

 

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I KNOW I SHOULD FORGIVE BUT DON’T WANT TO

This past Sunday, I wrapped up our series on IDENTITY with a message related to FORGIVENESS.   If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, a part of your IDENTITY in Christ is one of being totally, eternally forgiven.

One of the applications of that message was:  Since I’ve Been Forgiven, I’m To Forgive.   I’ve experienced enough hurt and betrayal in my life to know that’s not always easy.   However, it is something Jesus tells us to do.  If you’re struggling with FORGIVENESS I want to encourage you to listen to one of the following podcasts.   If the podcasts don’t help, I hope you’ll seek counsel from a biblically based Christian counselor.

Here are the podcasts:

http://gf.church/practical-atheist-i-believe-in-god-but-wont-forgive/

http://gf.church/forgiveness/

God bless you,

BJ

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FORGIVENESS

Reading and reflecting on these passages as I prepare for this Sunday.  Maybe you should do the same.

Matthew 26:28   for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 5:31  He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 10:43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 13:38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 9:2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”

Matthew 9:5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.

 

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