It is often said about Christmas, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I completely agree. I also believe that there is a new reason for the season. Let me explain.
It is often said about Christmas, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I completely agree. I also believe that there is a new reason for the season. Let me explain.
“…church was never designed to be club for church people…”
We picked a bad time to do something great. We chose the last Sunday night of the summer to thank the many people who make GracePoint the vibrant church we are today. Seriously, the end of the summer? Several had doubts that many would come. Would the auditorium be mostly empty? Would the last several months of planning go to waste? Would most of the gifts ordered and assembled go unused?
But many came! In fact, the auditorium was 75% full of men, women, teenagers, and children who serve at our church. The buzz and excitement was evident before we even got started. The atmosphere was like a pep rally as we told everyone over and over, “What You Do Matters!”
God is at work at GracePoint like never before in the 23 years I’ve been at this church. There are life-change stories happening all around us, people are accepting Christ, a lineup of people are preparing to be baptized, and many are growing in their faith. All good signs of God’s blessing. On Sunday night, I was moved to tears multiple times during and afterwards. Why the tears? Because of years of pain and loss. Here is the backstory:
A DNA Change:
For many years we were a very good church for church people. Now, we are a vibrant church with a passion to reach the unchurched. That’s a big difference. I’ve been here long enough to know that our history has been consistently blessed with people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Our history is also filled with many who have grown in their faith as the result of solid biblical teaching and good programing. Making any DNA changes from a successful way of doing things is incredibly difficult.
Every organization, including churches, face a magnetic pull to being internally focused. This is natural. It is rather easy to do without even realizing it is happening. However, it’s an intense battle for churches to become and stay outwardly focused. It’s much harder to think, “What about them?” instead of “What about us?” Churches that primarily focus on those on the inside will eventually lose an awareness and a heart for those on the outside of church. Those who need to meet, know, and follow Jesus.
Shifting the focus of our church away from ourselves and toward our community was difficult. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the blowback we received. But I was. The kind of fruit we are experiencing today has not come about without lots of hard work, pain, and loss. Seeing many people, who you love, leave your church is brutal. It’s taken years, but I can now say that it was worth it.
The fruit we are experiencing now is different than before. Now there is a hunger and passion in many to invite their friends, family, and co-workers who have never gone to church or who have walked away from church many years ago. We have many people who are growing and excited about their faith and want to share it with others. This was evident in smaller numbers in the past. It’s becoming the norm now.
This April, we announced to our church that we needed to add a third service. We needed more space to reach more people for Jesus. I was pleasantly surprised to hear full-fledged cheering in both services when they heard the news. I knew right then and there that our DNA had changed… for the better!
A Larger Core:
In 2012, the percentage of people serving at GracePoint was typical of most churches: 20% doing most of the work to make church happen. As a result, many people were burning out or only serving out of duty instead of passion. So we made a dramatic and somewhat unpopular decision: we reduced the number of ministries our church offered in order to focus on doing fewer things better. As a result, we once again blessed other churches with more people. For those who stayed, we challenged them to only serve once or twice a month, not every week.
As a result, we have a healthier church with a much larger and happier core of all ages serving. Some get frustrated if they are not scheduled to serve more. But it’s for their benefit and ours. Six year later, we are excited to see that we have over doubled the percentage of people serving at GracePoint. That’s percentage includes all the new people God has brought to us. We are reaching more people than ever before with a happier and healthier church than ever before.
We called last Sunday night a Core Team Gathering. It was our way of saying “THANK YOU!” to hundreds of core people who make GracePoint a great church. We gave everyone t-shirts, a gift bag, had door prizes, showed video stories, and we even had a mattress race with Mission Impossible music playing.
After thanking each team on a macro-level, we honor 4 individuals on a micro-level. They were: Les Murty, Chris & Karin Quinn, and Alysa Cornish. Each were surprised, humbled, and blessed to be honored and recognized. All throughout the auditorium tears were flowing in the midst of every standing ovation. We closed with a challenge and one powerful song along with balloons falling from the ceiling at the end. It was quite the closing celebration.
The smiles, joy, and excitement displayed will forever stay with me. So many shared afterwards that they had no idea that so many people served and how great it was to be part of something bigger than themselves and their team. Another common response was, “I love my church!”
I too love my church! I love our Mission to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus. I love our Vision to build a vibrant church with a passion to reach the unchurched. I love what God has done, what He is doing, and what He has planned for our future! I also love that I am privileged to serve alongside of so many amazing core team members here at GracePoint Church.
Some people are natural skeptics. Without thinking about it or trying very hard, they question everything. And everyone. Others, like myself, are naturally trusting. For the most part, I trust just about everyone. Especially those I love and respect. What they say happened, I believe it happened. That they say is true, I believe that it must be true.
But at the age of 18 and 3000 miles away from home, I started asking myself lots of questions. Questions I had never really asked myself such as, “What if I’m wrong? What if I am wrong about faith in Jesus? What if I’m wrong about the Bible? What if I’m wrong about everything I have grown up believing?” For the first time in my life, doubt had taken a hold of my mind.
I still remember the thought racing through my mind, “I know what my parents believe. I know what my church believes. But what do I believe?” There are some who believe that having doubts about one’s faith is weak, inferior, and something to avoid. I disagree. I believe that struggling with doubts can actually strengthen our faith. This is what doubts did for me. It forced me to take a closer look at what I said I believed and dig deeper which exercised my faith muscles like never before.
King David had doubts about God. He asked God where was He and why didn’t God answer him. And David was considered the apple of God’s eye. Some Old Testament prophets had doubts. They wondered if they heard God correctly and if God would really do what He had promised. Sounds a lot like us today.
I believe “Doubting” Thomas gets a bad rap. Here’s a guy who had a difficult time believing that Jesus had rose from the grave. But who could really blame him? How many of us have seen someone alive after they died? For me, the real doubter that I can relate to was a relative of Jesus. Not his step brother James. He only started to believe in Jesus after the resurrection and became the pastor at the church of Jerusalem after Jesus returned to heaven.
I’m referring to John, the cousin of Jesus. The forerunner of the Messiah. The one who saw the heavens open up after he baptised Jesus and saw the Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove. Then he hears God the Father say, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) This is the same guy who earlier couldn’t contain himself and shouted for everyone to hear, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
So, how can John say what he said, see what he saw, and hear what he heard and still doubt Jesus? I don’t know. But he did. Several years after this baptism experience, John finds himself confined in the prison of Herod Antipas and waiting a likely execution. He was not only suffering with physical anguish but emotionally afflicted with doubts about Jesus. As a result, John sent some friends to find the answers to some very important questions he was struggling with:
"When John, who was in prison,
heard about the deeds of the Messiah,
he sent his disciples to him,
'Are you the one who is to come, or
should we expect someone else?" - Matthew 11:2-3
I believe the source of John’s doubts were unmet expectations. Why? Because hearing about the deeds of Jesus seem to trigger his questions. Healing sick people, visiting homes of sinners, loving on children, debating religious leaders, and hanging out with fishermen and tax collectors probably didn’t seem very Messiah-like to John. I wondered if he expected what most Jews expected a Messiah to do: take on the Romans and set up His kingdom.
Thankfully, Jesus responded to John’s doubts in a very gracious way. Jesus didn’t condemn his questions or his apparent lack of faith. Instead, Jesus actually complimented John by saying, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11
Our doubts, too, usually are due to unmet expectations. We struggle when our prayers are not answered, when God seems so absent or silent, and when real pain hits our life in deep ways. That’s why our current teaching series, I Want to Believe, But… has really hit a nerve with lots of people. I am praying that this series will be really helpful to those who have wondered about and/or questioned the core of their faith.
Although God may not always answer with the timing we desire, nor are His answers always the answers we hoped for. But God will always meet us where we are, questions and all, and be gracious when we struggle with doubts. And better yet, His grace will always be sufficient for those who trust in God in the midst of our struggles.
Faith is not always easy. Sometimes it is very hard. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be called faith.
I recently had a birthday. I’m getting closer to 50 by the second. Suddenly some of you think I’m young while others think I’m really old. I’m sort of stuck in the middle. I’ve had this revelation that the older I get, the more I think about what’s really important, time. It’s this commodity that can easily be wasted because it’s so hard to track and yet there will always be some more of it later. I can get lost in my phone for hours or binge watch a series for days but when I’m done, it feels a little empty, a little self-serving. Minutes turn into years.
I have this new phrase I’m trying to put into practice, “Look Up, Look Out”. I have this idea that in every single day there are these moments, these opportunities, where I can have an impact on one person’s life. It might be as simple as a smile or it could be as involved as buying someone’s coffee. Simple actions that are right there in front of me. I read this story about a guy who wanted to change the world. He thought about all the world’s problems and realized that it was too big for him to take on. Then he thought about all the issues in his community and concluded those were too big as well. He was just one person. As he sat on a bench distraught with his realization, he noticed an old man struggling to carry his groceries down the street. He got up and helped this man carry his load, all the way to his home. As the man turned to leave, the older gentleman grabbed his arm and said, “Thank you. I couldn’t have made the journey without your help.” It was in that moment the man realized that changing the world isn’t some lofty global goal. Changing the world starts with one person doing one selfless act for someone else.
What if you and I could change the world? I’m serious. I know that right about now our heads fill with excuses and busyness and deadlines. I’ll do it when I’m retired. I’ll do it when I have more money. I’ll do it… tomorrow. With all of the time, I know that we will inevitably waste today, what if you and I purposely did one nice thing for a complete stranger, with no strings attached? Hold that thought. If you and I, just two people, did one thing a day for a month, that’s 60 people that were impacted. If half of those people followed our lead, the next month it would be 960 people. If half of those people joined us the next month, that would be 15,360 lives, in just three months. Do you see where I’m going with this? We could change our homes, our neighborhoods, our community, our world, with just one simple act of kindness towards another.
So let me ask you again. What if you and I could change the world? I think we can.
Let’s start a movement. Look up, look out, and change one life, today.
Here at GracePoint we believe that relationships matter. We believe that marriage can be a joy. At three weeks out from Valentines Day 2018 you might be thinking what am I going to do this year? How can I make this day special?
We've got you covered! Visit one of the top 7 places to kiss in Kitsap County AND treat your spouse to one of our amazing, local dining venues. It is sure to make their day.
Romantic Dinner Suggestions around Kitsap
Top 7 places to kiss in Kitsap
And....for the cynics among us who are thinking "I don't want to go to those places now. They will be packed with people!" Listen, you need a great picture. And these places are gorgeous! A selfie won't quite capture the beauty of these locations. So, when you bump into someone just smile and hand them your phone. Print the picture, place it in a frame and let it remind you make regular investments into your marriage.
Want more on the topic of marriage, love and how to invest in relationships? Watch "How to Fall and Stay in Love" and keep in touch with us at gracepointkitsap.com, and on your favorite social media platforms. Just search for #gracepointkitsap
By Barry Bandara, Mike Best, Kevin Scruggs, and Bob Valles
No. To believe in any other god is to violate the 1st of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Religious pluralism and/or universalism (the thought that all roads lead to God) has been gaining popularity in modern times simply because tolerance has become one of our greatest values. Simply put, we don't like telling people they are wrong so we have created a truth standard (moral relativism) where everyone can be right. The problem with this is it tends to be splitting-the-baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). When you lump different truth claims together you end up with an absurd amount of contradictions. In the example given above, Greek gods and Christianity, the first question that would need to be asked is, “How many gods are there?” In Greek mythology there are a lot of gods (polytheism) and in Christianity there is one God (monotheism.) So you end up at the same question you started with before you merged two religions: “which one is right?” Ultimately in attempting to validate two different theologies you’ve actually devalued both of them and unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) created a new hybrid grab-bag religion. If you’re looking for some good readings on Christianity’s truth claims I would recommend Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” or C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.”
First of all we must reject the idea that God has only presented himself to one part of the world. To believe in Christianity is to believe in the omnipresence of God i.e. that God is present everywhere. God manifests himself in different ways to different people throughout the narrative of the Bible and throughout history.
However I don’t think that’s what is at the heart of this question. I think what is really being asked here is why did Jesus choose to be born in the Middle East 2000 years ago. In order to answer this question we can consider the idea of getting a shot at the doctor’s office. The purpose of getting a shot is to get some sort of medicine/treatment into our bloodstream. The most effective shots tap into main veins which help distribute medicine efficiently and effectively throughout the whole body. By historical accounts (and it still rings true today) the Middle East is a main trade route and an extraordinary melting pot of different peoples and cultures. To put it simply, if you were going to inject something that was to affect the whole world, then the Middle East 2000 years ago would have been a main vein.
But then why 2000 years ago? I think the answer has to do with an examination of the Roman Empire which began in the city of Rome in 753 BC and lasted for well over 1000 years. The Roman Empire was the biggest, baddest empire the world had ever seen. One of the reasons the Roman Empire was so successful was because it was incredibly good at assimilating cultures into itself. The Empire took the best that various cultures had to offer and made those things a strength for Rome. Two of the most notable belief systems they assimilated were Socratic (Greek) thought and later Christianity. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle developed philosophies and ways of reasoning that are still incredibly relevant to us today. Their writings literally shaped how we reason. With the introduction of these teachings 300-400 years before Christ, people from different tribes and tongues could be united in their thought processes. Much of the New Testament employs both the language (Greek) and reasoning style of these philosophers. So even today when we read our translations of the New Testament we can still understand the thought processes and logic used (especially in Paul’s writings). Jesus being born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago was not an accident, but was instead a divine strategy for reaching people from a plethora of communities who would then go and share the Good News all around the world.
The simple answer starts with stealing a slogan from Nike “Just do it!” We have to get past emotional spiritualism i.e. I pray when I feel like it. Prayer is considered a ‘spiritual discipline’ and with any discipline the focus has to be on the long-term benefits as opposed to the short-term benefits. Consider some other disciplines: exercising, dieting, learning, saving, etc. All of these things are foundational to setting up a healthy life, and they’re not always easy. Prayer is no different, and we’ve got to get into the habit of praying. The more we talk to God, the more we can know God. The more we know God, the more we want to know God more. So even when you don't want to pray, pray anyway—Just do it!
If you are stuck in the same old prayers you can change it up a bit. In the Bible we see many different ways to pray. The book “Spiritual Disciplines” by Richard Foster goes into great depth in outlining some traditional, creative and/or unique ways of connecting with God. If you don’t know what to pray here’s a tool to give shape to your prayers. Consider the acronym A.C.T.S.
Adoration – “Praise be to God!” -Psalms 68:35
Tell God how much you appreciate Him. Express your love for Him. Praise His power and majesty. This is a great way to begin your prayer time. Sometimes I watch the sunrise and praise God for the beauty of His creation. You should never run out of praise. “How awesome are your deeds!” -Psalms 66:3
Confession – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9
Tell Him where you have fallen short. Be specific. I thank Him for the forgiveness I have in Christ and ask for help and strength to turn away from future temptations.
Thanksgiving – Always “glorify him with thanksgiving” -Psalms 69:30
You have plenty of reasons to be thankful. Thank God for His love, His faithfulness, His patience and a million other things. Express gratitude for what He’s doing in your life. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for you. Thank the Holy Spirit for indwelling you and never leaving. Thank Him for being your conscience, your counselor and that “still small voice.”
Supplication – “Make your requests known to God.” -Philippians 4:6
Tell God what you want, no matter how small it seems to you. Do you really think any of your requests are too big for God the Creator? You should have lots of intercessory prayer here.
I’m not going to attempt to exhaustively explain the Trinity. If you are looking for that you are going to need quite a bit more than a blog post can offer. One of the things I can (and want) to answer is, “What is the importance of the Trinity?” Let’s start with a historical and classic definition of the Trinitarian view of God: the Trinity exists as three persons in eternal relationship and mission and yet exists as one in essence. To put it another way 1+1+1=1... confused? You should be! The infinite nature of God isn’t (and shouldn't be) easily understood by our finite three-pound brains. In other words, God is God, and He’s considerably more complicated then we are.
So why does God reveal Himself in three persons if we’re really never going to understand how that works? Perhaps the importance of the Divine Relationship lies not in the “how” but in the “why” of the Trinity. When I was in seminary a couple years ago my class was asked to consider and discuss a 15th-century painting of the Holy Trinity icon made by Andrei Rublev (Google it). The picture depicts the three persons of the Trinity sitting around a table, participating in communion with an empty spot at the table. The author painted the picture in such a way that a viewer could feel invited and perhaps compelled to join in and fill that empty seat. I believe this picture illustrates well why the Trinity is so important. Our God eternally exists in communing relationship, and He is inviting us to join in their Holy Communion. In other words, our God created us for (and desires us to be in) a relationship with him because relationship is the nature of His existence.
God is good, just, loving and kind and yes, people will die. Life is a terminal disease in which none of us will escape death. It’s not about being “good” or being “bad”, it is just a reality of living on this planet. Some people will die sooner than others or in ways that seems unfair or uncaring, but that is when we rely most on God’s character. God sees things that we cannot see and has a plan that we cannot imagine. It doesn’t always make sense, (honestly when you are in it rarely will it make sense) which means it comes down to trust. Will I choose to trust God in a situation of which I have no control to Someone (God) who controls everything?
“No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”
Ecclesiastes 8:8, ESV
“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10, ESV
“so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45, ESV
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8, ESV
I am going to make a few assumptions here. First, a person has accepted God’s free gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Second, there has been some evidence of that acceptance by changes in his or her life. For example, when I got married I didn’t set up an online dating profile the next day.
When we come to Christ, we acknowledge that we can do nothing to earn salvation, it is a gift. God does all the work, we just need to receive and believe. Since that is true, that there is nothing I can do to earn it, how then could I do something to “un-earn” it? Of course the discussion could move to how could someone do something like “insert favorite sin here” and call themselves a Christian? Jesus is perfect, Christians are not. Salvation isn’t a live your life how you want as long as I don’t go to hell type of decision. I begin a relationship with God because my life without God is bad. I want to draw into a deeper relationship with God. Will I sin, you bet, but the closer I become to God the less pull sin will have in my life.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:27–29, ESV
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13, ESV
Great question. Let me throw one back at you, “Do you like food?” How did you start enjoying food? My guess is one day, one meal at a time. Some days the food you eat is probably better than others, you might even skip a meal or two, but it doesn’t stop you from eating food altogether, right? Eating food is a decision that you make every day. Reading the Bible is a lot like that. It’s a decision that you make every single day. Some days will be easier than others and there will be some days that you might miss, but each day is a new day, and you get to decide. If you want to start reading the Bible, great! What do you need to stop doing in order start reading? Here’s what I mean. If I want to get up 10 minutes early to read my Bible, I make that decision the night before by setting my alarm (maybe put it across the room so I have to get up), I probably get out of bed, maybe grab a cup of coffee? Think through how much time you need to get ready and then get up that early. The big idea is to plan ahead. You can read the Bible but currently you are choosing to do other things first. Rearrange your list. If you are looking for a place to start, I recommend the book of John or the book of Proverbs. Proverbs has 31 chapters so you could be done in a month. I would get a pen to underline and maybe a journal to write down the things God speaks to you through His Word. Don’t view it as a chore on your to do list, view it as an adventure where the God of the Universe wants to talk to you! How cool is that?
I would commit to memory 1 Peter 3:1-2. Pray for your husband and try to be encouraging. If you want to pray together ask him to pray with you. If you want to read the Bible together than you initiate it. The Bible says it’s about your conduct, not your words. If your husband says “no” to open of your requests, then say “ok” and try again on another occasion. Don’t argue or guilt him. Model the behavior and be an encouragement to him. Is it difficult, yes, and progress may be slower than you would like, but remember your job is not to be the Holy Spirit.
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1–2, ESV)
The Apostle Paul struggled with this very same issue, so does everyone. There are a few different directions we could go with this so I will try and stay at the 40,000 foot level. Sin is fun and enjoyable for a small moment, and then it isn’t. God tells us not to sin because He knows the damage and long term impact it will have in our lives. God is not a cosmic kill joy that wants us to lead boring lives. It’s just the opposite! God is trying to protect us. If you want to stop doing something, talk to God about it. Acknowledge that this is an issue and you want to change. God will honor that. Every time you are tempted, God always provides a way out BEFORE you engage in sin. Maybe start by memorizing 1 Corinthians 10:13. Satan is a punk and he very much wants to bring harm to your life. If we want to stop doing something, we need to replace it with something we want to START doing. So if I am tempted to swear, what is a different word I can use? What is a better way to express my emotion? I would also talk with a trusted close friend who believes/thinks the way you do. They become an accountability partner. When I tell my friend, it’s no longer a secret. I know that I have someone in my life who will ask me the tough but necessary questions.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:15–25, ESV)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
Wow. Thank you for your honest question. I don’t want to write some “Christianese” to try and help you feel better. I am truly sorry for what has happened to all of you. What has happened in your family didn’t start yesterday and it won’t be solved tomorrow. It will take time. I can tell you that God is in the business of restoring things that people has long since given up on. He has not abandoned you. If you have not done so already, I strongly recommend a therapist who has a personal relationship with God and can give you a Biblical perspective. I believe you need to set some boundaries and some bench marks to measure progress. Mistakes will be made because we are all fallen people. The hope is that we fail forward.
How do you restore trust in your marriage? With God’s help, one day, one moment at a time.
“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,” Isaiah 57:18, ESV
We are a church who believes that God is the Author of life and that life begins at conception. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5). King David said this about God’s role in our conception: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb . . . your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13, 16).
Other Bible verses that would highlight the sanctity of human life would be: Genesis 1:27, Job 31:15, Psalm 22:10, and Psalm 127:3-5.
Therefore, GracePoint Church would not be supportive of any organization that offers abortions; regardless of any other positive procedure they may offer. Thankfully, we are fortunate to live in a society that offers many life-giving options to health care and health resources.
Yes. From personal experience, this website offers clear biblical answers to very difficult questions many people have. I highly recommend it.
We taught on prophecy all throughout our Heaven series in December 2016, at Easter the last several years, and at this Christmas Eve services. A number of years ago we had an End Times series. However, the Lord hasn’t led me to teach on this type of series since. If God directs me to do it again, I will.
Matthew 18:15-2 and I Corinthians 5 give the procedure, guidance, and authority for church leaders to administer church discipline for believers. Church discipline is not something we take lightly or look forward to doing here at GracePoint. However, we have taken church discipline on fellow believers at various times over the years.
The Elder Board steps in to church discipline situations when there is a willful violation of scripture combined with a refusal to abide by what God’s Word says, along with an unrepentant spirit. Church discipline has taken place on various occasions behind the scenes and reconciliation was accomplished without having to go public to the church body.
Whenever a discipline situation has been brought to the church body, rest assured there has been considerable time spent in prayer, in meetings, and every effort made for reconciliation. There is never a rush to take church discipline or a set timeline to proceed with the steps given in Matthew 18. We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in such matters.
To start off, the stand GracePoint Church takes for believers contemplated divorce is simply the same stand we believe Scripture takes on this difficult issue. To know how God feels about divorce, Malachi 2:16 says, “I hate divorce, says the Lord God Almighty.” He hates what it does to the marriage relationship, the children affected by it, and the damage it does to the picture God instituted with the marriage covenant.
When Jesus was asked for his position on divorce in Matthew 19, his answer triggered a strong response from his disciples. They replied, “It is better not to marry.” In that day, people would get a divorce for just about anything. If a wife burned the dinner, it was grounds for divorce. Jesus went back to the original design of marriage found in Genesis 2 and then added, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The reason for the strong reaction from his disciples was because Jesus made clear how high the bar is for divorce and remarriage.
Some believe 1 Corinthians 7:15 as another “exception,” allowing remarriage if an unbelieving spouse divorces a believer. However, the context does not mention remarriage but only says a believer is not bound to continue in a marriage if an unbelieving spouse wants out. Others claim that abuse is a valid reason for divorce. However, it is not listed as such in the Bible. We are very careful to not presume or add to the Word of God.
In cases of abuse, we have, however, recommended a search for safety for those involved with a goal of reconciliation within the household. This may take time and professional counseling for safety to occur.
Quoting Jonah 1:17 was the common way of expressing the prophetic significance of a period of time as is the expression “forty days and forty nights”. “Three days and three nights” was an emphatic way of saying “three days”. By Jewish reckoning this would be the expression of a period of time that includes parts of three days. If Jesus was crucified on a Friday and He resurrected on the first day of the week, then by Jewish expression this would reckon as three days and three nights.
Luke 13:32 states, “And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” The original words of Jesus would not have required interpretation to accommodate extreme literal meaning of three 24 hour days thus suggesting that Jesus died on a Wednesday or Thursday.
The book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Job 40:15-24 describes creatures “dragons” existing alongside mankind that Creation scientists believe are what we would call dinosaurs today. We would not expect to find the word dinosaur in Bibles like the Authorized Version because it was translated before the word dinosaur was ever used. In addition, there are many very old history books around the world that record large creature encounters with people with descriptions that are consistent with what a dinosaur or “dragon” would compose of.
At the time of the flood, all of the land creatures outside the Ark died. All the “Kinds” that survived on the Ark lived in the new world after the flood (including dinosaurs) and experienced a much different environment. Food was no longer in abundance, man was killing for food, other catastrophes and the destruction of habitats brought about the extinction of many species that we have since discovered through archeology. This would include dinosaurs of our past and other animals that continue to become extinct each year.
Forgiveness can lead to complacency, yet accountability can lead to inevitable failure to meet the impossible expectations that God demands from us.
Let me first say that an attempt to reconcile forgiveness and accountability will most likely paralyze efforts in dealing with sin. I would like to propose a more specific approach in dealing with sin if I may.
If you desire God’s blessings rather than God’s loving discipline for you or for another believer, then victory over sin must be a priority. Believers are not perfect, but should be progressing in their walk and spiritual maturity. This should be a constant desire.
I would propose these four things:
1—Self Examination. Hopefully you’ll see a person who, although not perfect, is at least trying to improve, someone who’s moving steadily toward God’s standards. Ask God what David asked: “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart” (Psalm 26:2).
2—Deal with sin. Sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God. To sin is to miss the mark with God. And with God, the standard is perfection. Therefore, everyone has sin to deal with. As the apostle John noted, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Instead, he said we are to “confess our sins,” knowing that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
3—Develop personal convictions. To keep from being stained and sidetracked by the world, you must develop some bold spiritual convictions about what you believe. This strong shield of faith will protect you from the “fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16) and give you courage to stand up for your convictions and resist the temptation to sin. “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
4—Balance your convictions with compassion. We need to realize that people aren’t at the same place in their walk with Christ. Paul states, “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
On a final note - A careful study of Galatians 6:1-10 provides understanding of how we can guide a believer when they are struggling with sin.
The word “tithe” means “a tenth part” found throughout the Old Testament. The Bible tells us in many ways to give our offerings to God, to honor Him by bringing our best to help others – the church, the poor, the widows and the orphans. In the Bible, the tithe was never supposed to be all that was given to God, but rather a starting point. It was instituted to help God’s people begin to learn how to give and to become channels of His blessing.
The Bible also speaks of “free will offerings”. These offerings are in addition to our regular tithes, not in place of them. While a tithe is given out of obedience, the Bible also teaches about the importance of giving gifts for God’s work. The free will gift is to be given out of joy, as a response to God’s goodness. These offerings are sometimes used for disaster relief or a special need in the church.
See: Exodus 35:4-9, 36:3-7; Psalm 24:1-6; Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Generally speaking our tithe should go to the church we are serving (where your heart is) and are identified with. This allows us to have a good understanding and stewardship knowledge of the ministry we are giving to. This may or may not be local. However, we may learn of a specific “free will offering” opportunity presented to us through another church or ministry. The key is that you are cheerfully giving to the Lord with a good understanding of the ministry you are giving to.
God’s desire is that all people would turn to Him and not perish and be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 speaks to His desire and the very speaking of it lets us know that many will perish and not see heaven. John 3:16 also tells us that God loves mankind so much that His Son Jesus died on the cross so that we can be spared the death (to perish) that will come to mankind. But because He paid for man’s sin on the cross and if we trust in His payment (death on the cross) for our sins we then obtain salvation, eternal life with God in heaven.
If all were destined to go to heaven then there would be no need for Jesus to have paid the debt of sin for all mankind. It’s important to understand that even though the sin debt has been paid, this does not automatically provide a pass for all mankind. The response of man is to then receive the gift of eternal life by faith. This response by faith is necessary. Writing to the church in Ephesus the Apostle Paul states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
If you or someone you know needs to receive God’s gift of eternal life I would encourage you to do so by faith today. We are available to assist in any way you desire. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
By Kevin Scruggs
WHAT?!? I know, I know, years ago I would have been burned at the stake for uttering such a sentence. Halloween, in church circles, has traditionally been known as the devil’s holiday. Church and Halloween should never be uttered in the same sentence. Now before you fire off that email to me, I want to ask you a question. Can you tell me another day of the year where your neighbors, your community, come to your door with absolutely no invitation from you?
In the church world, we often talk about reaching out to our neighbors and build relationships with our community. I should know, I’m a pastor, which probably makes my opening title all the more controversial. Maybe I will shut my email off for a few days…
Jesus told us, those who follow Him, to go out into the world and preach the Gospel, the Good News that He has come to save the world. I know we often find that a difficult proposition. I can hear you now, “I’m not going to bust out my Bible and run up and down my street shouting at my neighbors.”. I agree. You may have heard this quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.” Easy to say, difficult to do. Let me take you back to my original premise. On Halloween, we have an opportunity to do just that. Ok you just used the church, the Gospel AND Halloween in the same sentence, this guy is a heretic for sure. What if, on Halloween, the day where people come to your house, you left your light on, greeted your community with a smile, and passed out candy? And by candy, I mean the good stuff, not the cheap stuff that we put out when our relatives visit (sorry Uncle Frank). I’m not suggesting that you slip a Gospel tract in the bag, although if you feel God is compelling you to do that then do it, but I am suggesting that you smile, get down on the kid’s eye level, be generous, say hello.
A few years ago my family began a tradition in our neighborhood. I live at the end of a very long street. By the time families (read parents) get to my house, they are tired, so we decided to roll out the welcome mat. We provide candy for the kids, and cider/hot chocolate for the parents. In fact, we have chairs for the parents and a portable heater. What has happened is that the parents stay and chat for a few minutes and let their kids go to the next few houses. It gives us a chance to show kindness to the parents and the kids. Sometimes we strike up a conversation with the parents, sometimes they are just quiet as they take a breather. It’s a simple gesture with no strings attached. I think that is the key. People don’t expect it. I look at it this way, God brought these people to my house. Of all the neighborhoods… you get the idea. So if God brought them, the least I can do is show some kindness.
If you are not into Halloween, no problem, I’m not either. I don’t dress up nor do I decorate my house with ghosts or goblins. I just open my door, smile and see how I can be a blessing to my community, albeit for a very brief moment. If you don’t get kids in your neighborhood, find a friend who does and help them. October 31 is an opportunity to engage and bless your community. Take a step in that direction, and see what God can do through you.
Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas and more...we have much to lament as a nation.
What is lament? Lament is "a passionate expression of grief or sorrow".
While we firmly believe "the faithful love of the Lord never ends" Lamentations 3:22, we ALSO understand the importance of verses 1-21. In those verses we see some of the pain the writer is feeling. It is good to speak those things out loud, write them down, sing them and talk about them. God CAN HANDLE our pain and our questions! The following is an example of one way to lament based on Psalm 13, 22, 30 and 146 (there are many more).
Can we pray for you? Let us know.